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Intro


Wytham Tits

Studying wild birds in Wytham Woods since 1947

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDWARD GREY INSTITUTE|Department of Zoology|University of Oxford

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Intro


Wytham Tits

Studying wild birds in Wytham Woods since 1947

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDWARD GREY INSTITUTE|Department of Zoology|University of Oxford

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What is the

Wytham Tit Project?

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What is the

Wytham Tit Project?

The Wytham Tit Project is a long-term population study of two woodland bird species - great tits (Parus major) and blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus)  - based at Wytham Woods near Oxford, UK, and is run by the Edward Grey Institute in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. Although the majority of the work focusses on great and blue tits, there are smaller populations of coal tits (Periparus ater) and marsh tits (Poecile palustris) which are of particular interest for their role in interspecific flocking and information spread. Sadly, as with much of the UK, the willow tit (Poecile montana) no longer breeds in Wytham.

Wytham Woods was bequeathed to the University by the ffennell family in 1942 after the death of their only child, Hazel. The ffennels requested that the woods be used "for the instruction of suitable students" and to "provide facilities for research". Accordingly, the woods became the University's ecological laboratory (a.k.a. The Laboratory with Leaves), with scientists using the woods to research environmental change, conservation, palaeoecologylong-term vegetation change, community ecology, and the behaviour and ecology birds, bats,  badgers and rodents.

The Wytham Tit Project was set up in 1947 by John Gibb and David Lack, inspired by pioneering work by Kluijver in the Netherlands, in order to study the breeding biology of the great tit. Lack initially put up 100 nest boxes in Marley Wood, one section of Wytham Woods; the study was later expanded around 1960 to cover the entire 385-hectare woodland using over 1000 fixed location nest boxes. Over the last 57 years, we have monitored all the breeding attempts in these boxes and individually-marked all parents and offspring (spanning up to 40 generations), making this one of the longest running ecological studies of marked wild individual animals in the world.

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Why study tits?

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Why study tits?

Great tits and blue tits are common woodland birds and regular visitors to gardens, with between 5-7 million birds of each species breeding in the UK each year. Given that they are so numerous, why do we study them? 

Tits make excellent study species for ecological research as they readily take to nest boxes, breed at high densities, do not travel far from where they are born, and cope well with being monitored by scientists. This means we can individually tag large numbers of nestlings (with unique leg rings) and follow them throughout their lifetime allowing us to answer questions such as: Do birds age? What determines how many eggs a female will lay, and how many of her young will survive to adulthood? To what extent are individual differences in how a bird looks or how it behaves inherited from parents to offspring? Are tits able to track climate change, and if so how is this achieved? What determines how they select their mates, and whether they remain faithful? Do birds learn new skills from each other, and does this depend on how sociable they are?

To learn more about our research click here.

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About


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About